BERNHARD WILLHELM – A/W 2012-2013, Oil waxed cotton bikini

In 1986, a group of brainy designers—Walter Von Beirendonck, Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Dirk Van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs and Marina Yee—put help to transform the tiny Belgian city of Antwerp into a serious fashion capital. Known as the Antwerp Six, they were all graduates of the city’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, which this year is celebrating two milestones: the three hundred and fiftieth anniversary of its founding and the fiftieth anniversary of its celebrated fashion department. To mark the occasion, the school and Van Beirendonck, who now heads his alma mater’s the fashion department, have organized Happy Birthday Dear Academy, "Happy Birthday Dear Academie"), a series of exhibitions that kick off on September 8. Most prominent among them is Antwerp Icons, which puts the work of the Academy’s most acclaimed fashion grads (Martin Margiela, Veronique Branquinho and Filip Arickx and An Vandevorst of A.F. Vandevorst among them) on 12 billboards throughout the city. Styled by Van Saene, with makeup by Inge Grognard and photography by Ronald Stoops (also home grown talents), the several-story tall images sit astride this compact city like so many colossi. Given the relatively small Academy’s outsize reputation, they’re a fitting salute.